93. The Darling Drinks of May

A long time ago, in a Galaxy far far away… Oh sorry, that’s the beginning of Star Wars. Well, in France in May 2019 which seems about as remote, we went and bought champagne for the big birthday bashes mentioned briefly in Post 24 of 8th May 2019. It might as well be a far-away Galaxy, let’s face it. Anyhoo, we had gone to Roger Brun champagne in Ay as it’s our favourite “every day drinking” champagne. (I’d like to lay claim to that phrase but it unfortunately belongs to a pal of ours so TM Val). We still have some left and today’s cocktail (which I will come back to) has this as its base, but any champagne (or, I guess, sparkling wine generally) will do.

Why have I been so silent? No update for over ten days. Life has been so exciting here I’ve been too busy to type. Not as exciting as battling a Death Star, obviously, but in terms of everyday life it was a welcome change. A few months ago I won a FitBit in the local charity lottery. I finally got around to setting it up and linking it to both my phone and my health insurance. I get points for this which I think results in me having a cheaper premium next year: remember to ask me if you find that sort of thing interesting. I also volunteered for a health check which gives me more points. As I can’t go into a pharmacy and have samples taken, this involved being sent a kit with which to extract my own blood. Told you I’d had an exciting time! A nurse and I had a meeting on the computer and she told me what to do. I had two tubes to fill with blood, a bit like Tony Hancock in the blood donor https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=niHr5jXEpNE which I’ve just watched for the first time in many years and still find it funny (but un-PC in places). My first two fingers didn’t want to bleed, it clotted very quickly and just managed to fill the first tube. I then ran my other hand under the hot tap, stuck the lancet into the third finger and it wouldn’t stop bleeding for about twenty minutes. I’ve yet to get the results back but I’m still alive. And I had to make my own cup of tea afterwards!

The main excitement for JD was re-designing the compost area. We had a few bins for grass cuttings but they’ve slowly been falling apart. You can see one of the lambs on top of one at the end of Post 91 (9th May), enjoying the food. I’ve got a picture of before here, at the moment there is no after as it’s still a work in progress.

Run down compost area

The sheep (but not the lambs) were shorn (sheared?) last weekend, they now look like goats to my eye, all big heads and skinny bodies instead of the teddy bears they usually resemble.

On Wednesday we had our first visitor since we’ve been allowed to see people! Only one of course, and we sat outside, a suitable distance apart, chatted and had afternoon tea. I’m not sure I should have made our friend a pot of tea and cake, or whether she should have brought her own. My instinct told me to be sociable so I provided refreshments. Then, the next day, another visitor! Two in one week! This was slightly more official as our boilers had needed servicing earlier in the year but coronavirus intervened. Again, loosening of the rules (guidelines?) meant this could now happen, with precautions. The dogs both greeted him warmly but us humans kept our distances.

Lupins

I had ordered a lot of plants to put into my pots (see Post 87 dated 12th April) around some dahlias I found. On Tuesday, 40 petunias and five phlox arrived, followed by 72 lavender plugs a few days later. Meanwhile the tomato seeds I’d sown into pots were beginning to get their first set of proper leaves so needed re-potting into bigger pots.

Lavender plugs

In addition I have three peonies to plant out. We had two in the garden but they seem to have died a death, along with the peach, the crab apple, two of the blueberries and possibly the apricot. The last gooseberry has disappeared. I’ve ordered replacements for these, let’s hope we get some rain before they arrive in the autumn. I don’t think I’ve seen any serious rain since I came home.

Lavender pots

Having had no rain and with a good weather forecast, we decided to have a BBQ. This is quite an expedition as we have to take all the food, drink, cutlery etc up to the barn where the BBQ is kept. It would be a lot easier to bring the BBQ down to the house but the views are not as good. We also get a fair bit of exercise at the same time. I took my laptop with us to watch Rusalska being beamed from Glyndebourne. We missed watching the first half as the sunlight was too bright!

How to see opera in the lockdown

The following night we had a takeaway. This is much more exciting than it sounds as not many places close to us are still operating. Matt’s Kitchen in Bruton is providing a limited menu on Friday and Saturday each week: we’ve eaten there in the past and always enjoyed the food so thought we’d give it a go. Highly recommended but I need to tell him to vary the menu for more repeat business.

Cocktails: at the end of the last blog post we had one called Hai Karate. For those of you (us) of a Certain Age, this was an aftershave in the 1960s to 1980s. As you’d expect from those times, the ads were of men splashing it on then being chased by girls. The drink did not have that effect on us, I’m happy to say, and was a more pleasant aroma than the reviews seem to suggest for the original. Mix 30 ml each lime, orange and pineapple juices, 60 ml rum, 5 ml maple syrup and a dash of bitters. I used Angostura bitters for this, http://angosturabitters.com/our-story/ which is possibly the one most people will have lurking in a forgotten cupboard. Like so many alcoholic beverages, it was invented by a medic, Dr Johann Siegert, to help with stomach problems. I didn’t know that Angostura is a town in Venezuela. Dr Siegert was Surgeon General to Simon Bolivar’s armies and perfected his recipe in the 1820s for the soldiers. Before too long it was being exported to the UK and used in cocktails.

So we are almost up to date. At the beginning of today I mentioned Roger Brun champagne. I decided I’d better do a champagne and bitters cocktail this weekend after the request on the last Blog Post. Not the classic one, that would be boring, so I found one called “Prince of Whales”. I cannot work out why, there’s no ambergris included and the quantity is not cetacean-sized. The name is somewhat academic anyway as, of course, I’ve amended the recipe. It should have been Madeira, Brandy, triple sec and Angostura bitters all topped up with champagne. Instead it was 20 ml Chinese wine (a bit like sherry), 20 ml cognac (OK, that is brandy), 7 ml triple sec (no change there), a couple of splashes of Hotel Chocolat cocoa bitters, all topped up with blanc de blanc Roger Brun champagne (that is, made only with the Chardonnay grape, no Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier). Any thoughts on the name I should give it? Both cocktails were very enjoyable, I only hope you’re not going back to work tomorrow if you decide to try them both!

92. Life In The Time of Covid-19 (3)

As you can see from today’s title, my imagination is not up to scratch this morning. I have a few items to cover from previous posts before I see if I can get into gear. It’s also getting difficult finding appropriate photos at times now that I’m not going anywhere, not even to the shops. You’ll get a lot of flowers, trees and sheep / lambs in the next few months. First though, for those of you who read this because of the sub-title (something to do with boats if I remember that far back), there are some items on the Clipper website you might like to read.

On Qingdao, with George, was another Circumnavigator known as Frankie. He’s one of the Chinese Ambassadors and sailed the first Leg of the last race (2017/18). His story is worth reading and there is a video in the article which features a certain George Dawson a few times. Here’s the link: https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/article/a-life-changing-story-new-video-showcasing-the-story-of-qingdao-ambassador-frankie

Medlar tree

Back in Subic Bay, we left two of the professional crew to look after the boats: Jeronimo, the skipper on Punta del Este, and Hugo, the mate (AQP) on Ha Long Bay. They are there for who knows how long as current planning is that the fleet will sail mid-February 2021 (nine months from now). Here’s how they occupy their time: https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/article/life-looking-after-the-fleet-in-the-philippines

A year ago this week was Crew Allocation Day in Portsmouth. Blog posts 24 to 26 (on 8th, 18th and 19th May 2019) cover the details as they were at the time, if you want to go back that far. Alternatively, the Clipper website brings back a taste of the event. See if you can spot OBB in the photo that heads the article (but remember, no beards!). https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/article/new-beginnings-reflections-on-crew-allocation

And before you ask, I can’t see them and I know roughly where they were.

…It’s now afternoon and I’ve thought of a Post title but it would mean going back and re-writing the first section so I’ll see if I can use it next time. Back in Post 90 (29th April) I tempted fate by showing a picture of our wisteria, which is about four years old, and referring to it as magnificent. Of course, that led to pictures of truly magnificent ones being sent to me. Thanks everyone, wait a few more years and we’ll be able to rival you! Maybe. Also in that post I referred to needing my five-a-day. One unkind soul (who shall remain nameless but has the initials JD) verbalised what you were all thinking: that I was saying I needed five spirits a day, as in the cocktail Bad Attitude. I’ve still not made that one as I was obviously talking about fruit and vegetables. Honestly, what do you think of me? (Don’t answer that). Luckily, as well as using the drinks in cocktails, one of OBB (again, nameless…) is using the rum in puddings (banana or pineapple) and the whisky in steak dishes, so the bottles are slowly emptying.

Foxglove

In the newspaper this week was an article telling us that cocktails and baking were no longer fashionable, we’ve been in lock-down so long and we’re bored with it all. We haven’t had a cocktail since the Bois de Rose in the last blog post, but I’m planning one or two for this weekend. We are rather spoilt for choice as the next two bottles are similar: bitters. These are used, like the absinthe, in tiny amounts as flavours rather than main ingredients. One is the classic Angostura bitters and the other a Hotel Chocolat cocoa bitters given to me by George one birthday some years ago. I think I’ve found a recipe that uses both. More next time. As both are over 40% alcohol I don’t think they will go off. Unlike (possibly) the Hobgoblin stout I gave JD the other night. When he read the label he discovered it was best before 2017. I told him, that’s not bad in this house. That’s not “you will be really ill after this date”. However, I did play safe after making a ginger cake. The tin of black treacle I used stated something along the lines of throw the tin away once it’s been open for three months. As it was closer to three years I thought for once I’d better play safe. (It was almost empty). I’ve looked up on the Tate & Lyle website why it is such specific wording and apparently for this and the golden syrup cans, pressure can build up and it may explode. I wish I’d left it (outside) now, it could have been exciting.

I’ve knitted a new item this week, as shown in the next photo. It’s doubled over so there’s a pocket for coffee filters, tissues or whatever you feel best. We can throw them away after use as I can knit more quite quickly, although the I-cord was a pain to make. Oddly enough, I have some coffee filters left over from a Spanish holiday long ago: they are priced in pre-Euro currency. I’m sure they can’t go off? No best before date anyway.

This photo also shows my latest hair style. It’s beginning to remind me of when I had long hair, as a little girl. I hated it, the brush was always tangling it up and it hurt. My mum used to use Vitapointe, I wondered if it’s still going so I checked. Amazingly, it is still available and is THE product for curly (frizzy) hair. I think I should get some and report back, although at its current length my hair is not yet tangling. https://www.makeupalley.com/product/showreview.asp/ItemId=142646/Vitapointe/Unlisted-Brand/Conditioner

All seven lambs

As is now “normal”, a picture of the lambs to end.

91. Let Us Remember

Yesterday was VE Day, 75 years after the end of the Second World War in Europe. What we are going through at the moment may feel like we are suffering by being stuck at home but it’s nothing in comparison. We will get through this and our homes, the cities and all other places will look the same. When I first started working in the early 1970s, there were still bombsites around that had not been rebuilt, used for the most part as car parks. That is unimaginable now.

Without planning to, we spent yesterday planting a couple of oaks that John’s father had grown from acorns and given to us, along with a load of other oak and horse chestnut seedlings, a number of years ago. How these two were not planted out I’m not sure, but they have been growing in pots at the front of the house for the last few years. With hindsight it’s appropriate that two English oaks, nurtured by a Second World War Navy rating, should be planted on VE Day. We have two corners for the other oaks and horse chestnuts but these two have gone to fill gaps in the hedges. In years to come, they will just be part of the countryside. Looking further back, English oaks were used for the keels of ships in Elizabethan times. We can be thankful that we do not have to face the thought of all our trees being chopped down for such purposes.

But you don’t come to my blog to read history or serious subjects. What about the cocktails? All in good time. All the jobs we were doing we’re still doing, everything seems to take an age when there’s no urgency. I did try a remote piano lesson on Zoom but we were getting some strange feedback. Possibly my (very untuned) piano, possibly my playing, let’s be charitable and say it’s a problem we can solve. It does concentrate the mind when you know someone else is listening. I might have an appreciative audience outside but maybe these partridge are deaf to my music.

Not spotted by Polly

JD had his birthday in the middle of last week so I tried a cocktail out in advance. This week’s ingredient is Aperol, an Italian aperitif. For those of you who have never come across it, this is the bright orange stuff that people in the UK “discovered” a few years back and made into Aperol spritz (Aperol with prosecco and soda water) to drink in the long hot summer evenings. Well, I could be boring and stick with that but I thought I’d be a bit more adventurous. The Aperol website says the colour is due to a blend of sweet and bitter oranges, accompanied by a secret mix of herbs and roots. The recipe was perfected in 1919. https://www.aperol.com/en-gb

Polly relaxing

Go back to Blog Post 87 of 12th April and you’ll see that I’ve already used it in Rimbaud’s Right Hand. Can’t do that again. I came up with ten new recipes, some still with absinthe. I guess both were around in about the same era. There’s one called Scotch Bonnet which includes Tabasco. I don’t know if the Scotch Bonnet chilli pepper is used in Tabasco but it’s not my idea of a refreshing cocktail. An Aperol Royal is similar to the Spritz, with champagne. I decided upon a slightly more festive one for John’s birthday, called Bois de Rose. Mix 20 ml elderflower liqueur, 7 ml Aperol, 30 ml gin, 7 ml lemon juice and top up with pink sparkling wine. Very enjoyable.

Despite my cake making, we had a professionally made one for the actual birthday. I have also been making desserts, mostly of the mousse variety so I can prepare a batch to freeze, otherwise we’ll be eating the same thing for a week. I was allowed to cook for JD’s birthday (I usually eat what has been prepared for me) so we had smoked salmon with pink grapefruit, grouse and lavender & maple syrup bavarois, which is a mousse to you and me (well, certainly to me. You can decide what you’d prefer to call it). As we couldn’t have a proper get-together, there were a lot of parcels delivered from the family for JD to unwrap on the day. Mostly food and wine so we’ll be OK for the next few months in lock-down.

And there I think I’ll call it a day as the cocktail hour beckons once again. The sun is shining so we can drink al fresco and call it a sun-downer.

90. We’re Busy Doing Nothing

I am so sorry, you’re probably thinking I’ve poisoned us both with all that old food and that’s why you didn’t get a cocktail recipe at the weekend. Fear not, I’ve just been remiss and neglected you all. And before JD tells me off for the title today, we are very busy. I just like the song, it’s sung by Bing Crosby in the 1949 film “A Connecticut Yankee in King’ Arthur’s Court” based (very loosely I suspect) on the book by Mark Twain. Sing along now…

Post 89 received a few comments that I should reference. “Shower caps” are available from Ikea, they look much more robust than the ones I’m using. https://www.ikea.com/ch/en/p/oevermaett-food-cover-set-of-2-silicone-light-blue-70461936/. I cannot agree regarding Hobnobs, I won’t tell you the remark that JD made but I’ll send the next packet straight through to Wiltshire! Finally, some boxes of wine do indeed hold 12 bottles but more and more I’m seeing boxes of six (unless my reputation has gone before me and they think that’s all I can handle). I was under the impression it was due to EU regulations and maximum weights, such as we had many years ago in our profession, before computer submissions became the norm.

So, what shall we get up to today?

Post 88 on 18th April, ELEVEN DAYS ago, left you waiting for a cocktail. Who guessed the magic ingredient? Not Aperol (which comes next in my alphabet) but Amaretto. You can find (non alcoholic) Amaretto biscuits as well as the drink, the word apparently means “little bitter” (I don’t speak Italian so didn’t know this). I’ve just found out, while doing my research, that 19th April was Disaronno Day last year so I’m on trend for this year! http://www.disaronno.com/en/news/disaronno-day-2019. This is the brand I like (others are available, maybe I should try them). It has a very distinctive shaped bottle which I’ve finished off (there was less than an inch in the bottom) and thrown away so no photo of it I’m afraid. Here’s a magnificent wisteria instead.

Bearded iris and wisteria

Amaretto is an almond flavoured liqueur (from almonds or apricot kernels) which I love (as well as the biscuits), especially after a good dinner in front of a roaring fire. However, there’s no excitement in that for you so what mixture did I come up with? After I’d dismissed the shots (see Post 86 on 7th April), I was left with nine possibilities, although there are many others on the internet. I’m not a fan of egg white or cream in cold drinks and the ones with tea seemed like a cheat from Prohibition. There were a few with just Amaretto and one other ingredient (lemon juice, Irish whiskey, tequila) which I didn’t like the sound of. This left me with three: Cosmic Bliss, Bad Attitude and Big Red Hooter. How to decide between three such wonderful sounding names? Let’s look at the constituents of each: the first has orange, lemon and lime juices; the second FIVE other spirits (gin, rum, tequila, triple sec and vodka) plus Grenadine, as well as three juices (cranberry, orange and pineapple); the third has merely tequila, Grenadine and pineapple juice. Decision made, I need my five a day and don’t have any pineapple juice. Cosmic Bliss it is! As I’m trying to see the Starlink (Elon Musk’s satellite train) when it passes overhead this is very appropriate as well.

Cosmic bliss!

The rest of the time has mostly been taken with routine tasks mentioned previously so of no interest. I’ve made lemon and cardamom drizzle cake as well as caraway seed cake. Yes, you’ve guessed it, I’m trying to use up the spices that we have in the cupboard, this is a great book to have as an inspiration for recipes. Author Dhruv Baker (what an apt name!) won MasterChef in 2010 on UK television (for anyone not au fait with such programmes, including me).

Adie has not eaten anything she should not have (to the best of our knowledge). The garden and lambs continue to grow. The vegetable seeds I ordered before I left London (see Post 84 dated 27th March) finally turned up so I’ve planted those as well as some old ones I found in the shed, we’ll see what comes up. The rain that has now arrived is most welcome. Also looking back at that Post, I see that I said I’d missed the daffodils. Not so, yesterday I came across these in the garden.

Pheasant’s eye narcissi

George had his birthday last Friday. We were expecting to be celebrating in Seattle with a crowd of sailors. Instead George is still “on his tod” in London so we held a virtual party with his Godparents, a couple of friends and us. (If you’re not familiar with this saying, it’s Cockney rhyming slang for being alone. I didn’t know where it came from so looked it up. There was a US jockey called Tod Sloane at the end of the last century. Sloane = on your own). We tried to get together on WhatsApp but that only allows three people, so George had to set us up on Zoom, while the rest of us ran around turning on our computers. Lessons learnt: as well as not trying to WhatsApp too many people, do not leave your wine in a garage behind an electronic door. If there is a power cut you’re stumped! (I’m glad to say we do not have any electronic locks so we had plenty of champagne to toast George).

And finally, in case you want to know how the lambs are getting on, here’s two of them yesterday aged eleven days.

88. California Dreaming

That’s as near as we’ll get, dreaming about it. I should, in normal life, now be on my way to Seattle. A crowd of us were due to fly early on 18th April to wave the boats in. Instead, we’re not waving at anyone unless it’s at a neighbour across the road. To quote the song, “All the leaves are brown”: no they’re not, it’s Spring. “And the sky is grey”: well yes it is. We’re having rain for the first time since I got home, quite enjoyable except that the temperature has plummeted about ten degrees. OK, maybe plummeted is an exaggeration but I’ve had to get out my jumpers.

Who you looking at?

Before we get any further, I think I should warn you that there will be no cocktails in this Post. I haven’t made any since last weekend (but I probably will tonight) so next time I’ll let you know the next mystery ingredient. (If you squint at the photo in Blog Post 86 from earlier this month you might just be able to make it out). There may not be flowers either. However, there is (look away now) a scary picture of me channelling my inner Struwwelpeter or shock-headed Peter (thankfully not the finger nails). I’m ahead of the curve in terms of letting my hair revert to its natural colouring, but I may need to give myself a buzz cut if this lockdown goes on for much longer, or ask John to do it for me. I used to say I wanted to do this and have it dyed green like a billiard table (odd child) so maybe now is my chance?

Yet another bad selfie

What am I going to talk about, you ask. What I did with my week? I could tell you about Strewwelpeter. He is the protagonist of a children’s book written in 1845 by a German author, Heinrich Hoffman and served as a warning to children who misbehaved. He was the inspiration for Edward Scissorhands. https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/original-struwwelpeter-illustrations-childrens-moral-lesson-book

A cocktail (Corpse reviver no 9)

Now that I look back at my diary, we did have one more cocktail on Sunday night, not long after I finished the last update. Here’s a picture to prove it. Despite my disdain for off-putting names last time, this is called Corpse Reviver No 9, with Sambuca, Aquavit, Cointreau, Vermouth and lime juice. Possibly required after looking at my early morning selfie above. You wash the glass with the Sambuca then throw it away. Or drink it. Then add 30ml each of the other ingredients. I have some special ice cubes which I used here, see if you can work out what they relate to.

What do these ice cubes look like?

Am I going to have to find the previous eight for you? Time will tell. The second ingredient along the bar was thus Akavit, from Sweden (yes, I am so anal that they are in alphabetic order, to help you work out the next one). There are lots of aquavits / akavits available, the name can be translated as “water of life” and others are eau de vie and whisk(e)y.

On Easter Monday we got up and poor Adie was being sick. Later, we found John’s little bag of salted caramel Easter eggs was missing. I had bought these some time ago and given them to him to have on Unicef when Easter Sunday arrived. George says Qingdao ate theirs the day after they sailed. JD kept his and of course Easter on board never happened. We had a few but Adie had more. She somehow managed to leave a stream of silver foil wrappers in the garden, which was a bit of a give away (unless JD did this and tried to blame the dog?). As she was throwing up and the chocolates were not dark chocolate, probably not much chocolate at all once you’d taken the caramel and salt into consideration (and boy were they salty), there was no point taking her to the vet (who would make her throw up or pump her stomach).

I started to knit, not flowers as threatened in Post 87, but a jumper. I bought the yarn (alpaca) over a year ago and the pattern I had decided on at the time I now decided against, so that meant hours on the computer trying to find a pattern I like this year. You may get to see it one day. I also made a chocolate coffee cheesecake which you can see, decorated with redcurrants from the freezer.

Cheesecake

Talking of currants, John decided to rearrange the flagstones in the fruit cage so he could move the currants (black, red and white) and stop them growing into the mesh every year. This is a demanding task and is taking place over a number of days. Here it is part way through. The cage is not to stop the birds (in fact, two bull finches were flying around inside it yesterday) but to stop Greta eating the raspberries as she then starts scratching. She also eats most of the alpine strawberries growing around the garden before I get the chance to pick them.

Black, red and white currant bushes

Two days after eating the chocolate eggs, Adie blotted her copy book once more. This time it was a few Macushield capsules and she gave herself away again, not by throwing up but by having bright yellow paws and muzzle. At least she should have good eyesight!

Me? Steal food?

The most exciting part of the week is about to be discussed. John wandered around to see what other jobs needed doing and came back to let me know that Kate’s three pregnant ewes had produced seven lambs. There is one set of triplets. They are a cross between Ryeland (mum) and Herdwick (dad) so we are excited to see what their fleece looks like (easily excited here). Ryelands are the very fluffy sheep (“teddy bears”) you get when you ask a child to draw a sheep, with a fine fleece that was used for clothing. Herdwick are the grey hardy sheep with white faces and quite a coarse fleece, often used for carpets. Herdwyck means sheep pasture in old Norse. https://www.herdy.co.uk/the-farming-year/all-about-herdwicks/ and Beatrix Potter kept a flock, as they are native to the Lake District and she was keen to preserve their heritage.

I cannot decide which photos of the lambs I like best so there are a few scattered about this Post, I hope they brighten your weekend. (As I don’t eat lamb, there are no roast dinners)! I’ll try to get them as they grow up and leap into the air as only young lambs seem to do. These are all within 24 hours of them being born.

And now I’m off to make that cocktail I mentioned. I have sixteen recipes to choose from, I’ve not looked at all the ingredients to see how many I can actually make (or adapt). Ciao! (That’s a clue).

87. Happy Easter 2020

Rather a different Easter for everyone this year, not allowed out to visit church or friends and family. Who managed to get Easter eggs? I ordered some online but forgot to allow for our post being redirected still, so George has ended up with way too much chocolate for one person.

In addition to my cocktail experiments I’ll give a few photos of the garden to cheer you up. The header is of the supermoon we had the other night, so-called pink but not in colour. It refers to some US flowers that are pink in colour and blooming around now. I think I’ll call it my daffodil supermoon.

I have received comments about the size of our drinks bar. All I can say is, wait until you reach our advanced age. People give you bottles for Christmas, Easter, birthdays and any other event they can think of. When you go on holiday and taste the local speciality you enjoy it so much you bring bottles back, not thinking what it will taste like in dark dank Somerset. When shopping you might spot something that looks interesting (the plum and clementine gin we finished last week being a case in point). You cannot abide waste so don’t throw it away, especially as alcohol doesn’t go off. Finally (I think, there could be other reasons I’ve not thought of yet), we have the space.

Before I forget, I have been informed by JD that I got the race details wrong. I have all the dates and stops correct but I’ve put some of the Legs in the wrong place, a bit like Eric Morecambe playing Grieg’s piano concerto with “Mr Preview” (Andre Previn): all the notes but not necessarily in the right order. If you want to watch it and have a laugh here’s the link to the three minute sketch from 1971 on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMPEUcVyJsc. (I’ll sort out the race details when it happens).

To the garden. In a normal year I’d buy lots of bulbs and our industrious gardener would plant them up for me, so we’d have a wonderful display all year round.

As I wasn’t here when the bulb catalogues came out, nor intended to be here now, this is the view this year. I cannot even go to the garden centre and buy anything. I hope it’s not the same empty pots all year, it’s going to be very boring. Maybe I could move them around every month, or knit flowers now that I’m not knitting Unicef and Qingdao beanies? Hmmm.

Having depressed myself with the bareness, let’s return to the cocktails. You’ll remember that the first was Maiden’s Dream, which consists of equal quantities of absinthe and gin with a third of grenadine. The recipe said to make it in a long glass (highball or Collins for those of you who like to be precise). We decided that these three ingredients on their own were possibly a little bit too alcoholic so added ice and sparkling water. Here’s the result, I think it’s an acquired taste. A little aniseedy as you’d predict plus a little fruity. (JD asked if we had to keep taking selfies of us drinking so this is just the glass. Normal service will be resumed later).

Maiden’s Dream

Back to my flowers, normally (sorry, you’ll probably be getting this word a lot in the next few months) I’d have hundreds of tulips everywhere, and the pots above would have alternate colours, different each year depending on my mood when I bought the bulbs. You are advised to buy new bulbs each year as they are bred to not be as vigorous in subsequent years, so I put the old bulbs around the garden and see what comes up (literally). Here are a couple, I cannot remember the names but probably have a list if you need to know.

Tulip A
Tulip B

Not quite the dazzling display I’m used to. Next year maybe…

As my Dream didn’t tally with the Maiden’s Dream (whoever she was), a couple of days later we decided to try Rimbaud’s Left Hand. Intriguing who thinks up these names. On your behalf (unless you studied French literature, in which case apologies for all the errors) I did a bit of research. I’m not a Wiki addict so tackled Britannica. Some years ago in the late 1990’s I bought possibly the last paper version, comprising 32 volumes (three being indices) and I’ve a special bookshelf for them, but these days I use the interweb. I’m sure nothing has changed from the paper version as he died in 1891. Arthur Rimbaud was a French poet: I find his poems rather difficult to comprehend, even when translated into English (and I guess more so in their native French as I never got beyond what were then ‘O’ levels and I think are now GCSE’s, at 16 years old). At the age of 27 he declared he’d given up on the idea of work and would dedicate his energy to being a poet. Good job George doesn’t read this blog, I’d not want to encourage his ideas!

There’s a lot of guff about visions and consciousness and (here we begin to come to the point) he underwent fasting and pain, drink (including absinthe) and drugs in order to experience hallucinations. He got involved with Verlaine (another French poet) and his wife in a menage a trois initially. Verlaine and Rimbaud had a tempestuous relationship, running off to London at one stage. At the end of their relationship, Verlaine shot Rimbaud in his LEFT HAND and was imprisoned for two years. Hence the name of the cocktail (why you’d want to name a drink after someone’s maimed hand I’m not sure but I’m only a scientist). The cocktail officially is equal parts Aperol, Benedictine, Absinthe, lemon juice and pineapple juice with some rose water dropped into the centre. As we didn’t have all of these I created Rimbaud’s Right Hand: Aperol, Drambuie, Absinthe, and double Tropical juice (mostly apple and orange when you read the ingredients but a little pineapple, mango and passion fruit). I did have the rose water so that’s OK. Here I am drinking it (in the correct Martini glass) in JD’s greenhouse. It was delicious. I’ll try it again once I’ve been through the rest of the bar.

What else have we been up to? Chatting to people, trimming dogs, cutting grass, piano practice, clearing out stuff we always said we’d do, all the usual things you do when confined to quarters. I’ll introduce the second cocktail ingredient next time. A bientot!

86. Rhubarb Rhubarb Rhubarb

Remember me telling you about our garden produce in Post 85? Here’s the meal we had on April 2nd: rhubarb and ginger cocktail (R&G gin, lemon juice, R&G jam, shake with ice and decorate with a tiny stick of rhubarb), mackerel with rhubarb, then rhubarb and marmalade sponge pudding. Interestingly the original cocktail used marmalade instead of rhubarb and ginger jam so continuity across the meal.

Making the rhubarb and ginger sour

Going back to the original purpose of this blog for a moment. On April 1st, with no joking, Clipper published an updated schedule. The plan is to re-start the race from Subic Bay on 21st February 2021, with Leg 6 resuming and taking in Sanya (arrival on 25-26 February), Zhuhai (arriving 5-6 March) then Qingdao (arriving 19-21 March). This will be the new end of Leg 6 (instead of finishing at Zhuhai). Leg 7 will then be to Seattle (arriving 19-24 April) and Panama (27 May to 1 June). Leg 8 includes Bermuda (arrival 15-17 June) and Derry-Londonderry (8-12 July) then finishes in London on 24th July 2021. Those of you with long memories (or plans to travel to this stop) will notice that we have lost New York (very careless) and will finish roughly two weeks before (but one year after) the intended finish date of 8th August (2020). Obviously this is all subject to change but that’s the route and timing for now. I’m not making any plans until nearer the time.

And drinking it

Day 16. Saturday 4th April. Finally finished all our unpacking. Still to go round the house and replace all the blown light-bulbs. They seem to delight in keeping the light-bulb manufacturers in business. I have four boxes of spares: small bayonet, large bayonet, small screw and large screw. I still seem to always be missing the one that JD wants when we need a replacement. Made the marmalade sour on which the above cocktail was based, with plum and clementine gin. Having sorted all our spirit bottles, from absinthe to whisky (Scotch), I’ve decided to make this a cocktail blog for the time being. If I become increasingly incomprehensible you’ll understand I’m sure. I’m ignoring shots as they don’t last long enough. Looking back, I see that without realising it, this has been an underlying theme for some time.

Marmalade sour

Before I get onto the alcohol recipes, the bird life here is expanding, even if I cannot take photos. A long-tailed tit tried to fly through the (closed) window, offering a good view of its undercarriage. JD saw a charm of goldfinch (I think that’s the correct collective noun) in the orchard. As usual, we have constant buzzards mewling and being mobbed by the rooks. In addition, we are beginning to embrace modern technology, with JD resuming his physio with his personal trainer via the computer. He says it’s much better than being in a class and it saves about an hour travel time. Good job I “mended” the internet last week.

Absinthe to whisky (Scotch)

As well as unpacking, I’ve audited the kitchen under-sink cupboard and the freezer (after defrosting). I went onto the local council website and discovered that the recycling centres are closed, so reminded myself what I could recycle at the kerbside (not that we have kerbs in the wilderness). I told you this blog would become boring.

So, to the first bottle in our store: absinthe. You only use drops in most recipes so yes, thanks Chris, it is still the same bottle for my birthday xx (I forget the exact number) years ago! I did make Midori and absinthe sorbet not long after receiving the bottle, it didn’t freeze and tasted aniseedy and melony at the same time. Not bad but maybe not to be put on the favourites list.

For those of you who have never heard of it, absinthe can be a vivid green spirit classically made with wormwood. As with so many spirits, it started life as a medicinal product, curing malaria. It tastes of aniseed and when water is added goes cloudy. Its main association (to my mind) is with Toulouse-Lautrec, with his hollow walking stick full of absinthe, and the Belle Epoque in France in the late 1800’s. You prepared it for drinking with a special absinthe spoon, on which you placed a sugar cube and let water drip through into the glass of absinthe. According to an exhibition at The Tate, it was apparently known as “the Queen of poisons” and the name comes from Greek meaning undrinkable. https://www.tate.org.uk/tate-etc/issue-5-autumn-2005/drink-fuelled-nations-art

Are your salivary glands watering? It could be up to 80% alcohol, definitely lethal, and was said to cause hallucinations due to the presence of thujone, a chemical in wormwood (or maybe the alcohol content alone?). It had such a bad reputation that it was made illegal. I’m happy to say that mine is clear (no contaminants) and a mere 53%. If you want to try some, look here: https://www.thewhiskyexchange.com/c/358/absinthe

Putting all that aside, I have a great app on my phone called Mixology so I consulted that for absinthe recipes. I chose ones where we have all the ingredients and shortlisted 14. NO, I’m not going to try them all. Well, not all at once. I then reduced the list further to those that used a reasonable amount of absinthe, not just a couple of drops. I dismissed two due to their names: Death in the Afternoon (although champagne and absinthe doesn’t sound too bad) and Corpse Reviver (gin, lemon juice, Cointreau, vermouth and absinthe). Not suitable under present circumstances. The names in general tell you something about absinthe: TNT, Hiroshima, Earthquake, Monkey Gland, Flying Fortress, Peep Show. I’ve decided to try two, purely because I like the innocuous-sounding names: Maiden’s Dream and Rimbaud’s Left Hand. No, checking the cupboard, Rimbaud will have to wait another day as I’m out of pineapple juice.

What, you want to know what it’s like before you rush out (or to the computer) to buy your own bottle? Tune in next time.

Proof that we also eat: rhubarb sponge